Baby Animals in Spring

Spring has arrived! And with it, many people will come across baby animals seemingly in need of help. In fact, many of these critters do NOT need us. They need their mother. The best-case scenario is if we can reunite a separated baby with mom. If the baby is orphaned or injured, the next best-case scenario is a licensed wildlife rehabber with the necessary experience. 

If you should come across an injured or orphaned animal, please remember some basics:

  1. Use gloves.
  2. Always call a wildlife rehabilitator if the animal has been in the mouth of a cat or dog.
  3. Never attempt to feed or give the animal water. This can kill them. Await instructions from a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
  4. Keep them in a safe, warm, quiet place until you can transport them to a wildlife rehabilitator.

Ways to prevent orphaning and injury:

  1. Save tree work for the fall, and this will eliminate the need for many orphaned animals to find shelter and food with a wildlife rehabilitator. Birds, raccoons, and squirrels commonly raise their young in trees.
  2. Drive the speed limit and keep your eyes peeled for mother animals dashing about in the daytime foraging for food. (Seeing animals out in the day that are normally crepuscular or nocturnal is normal in baby season. Mom has to get extra calories for herself and her young, and so you may see a fox or raccoon out in the sunshine. To be on the safe side, do not approach the animal. If the animal is foaming at the mouth, acting aggressively, or staggering, call animal control.)
  3. Keep cats indoors, and keep them from getting bored with toys, treats, and a scratching post. 
  4. Keep dogs on a leash when outdoors. 

Now, let’s take a look at some species you might come across, and the best actions in each scenario:

Rabbits

Our local rabbits do not raise families in burrows. Baby bunnies (called kits) are born in nests on lawns, in herb gardens, and in fields. They’re odorless, unlike their mother. To protect them, mom visits them only twice per day. If she senses danger near the nest (and to rabbits, we humans represent danger!), she won’t go near the nest, so stay out of sight. If an animal such as an unleashed dog disturbs the nest, she will come back. Just leave the kits be and walk away. The idea that the mom will reject the kit if it smells like a human or a dog is an old myth.

If you’re uncertain whether a mother rabbit is caring for the nest, try this trick: place yarn or string in a tic-tac-toe pattern over the nest. Check the next day to see if they have disturbed it.

When to call a wildlife rehabilitator:

  1. If a kit is bleeding or covered in flies.
  2. If a kit has been in the mouth of a dog or a cat.
  3. If mom hasn’t returned to the nest.

No need to call if:

  1. The kit is uninjured and in the nest. (NOTE: if the kit has been in the mouth of a dog or cat, you can’t see the puncture wounds. Call a rehabber.)
  2. The tic-tac-toe pattern of yarn has been disturbed.
  3. The kit is furred with open eyes and is larger than a baseball.

 

Deer

Fawn-napping happens too often. Like rabbits, deer are born odorless. Mothers will not endanger them by hanging out with them in their first weeks of life. She’ll visit them a handful of times to feed them. The rest of the time, the fawn lies in hiding, depending on its camouflage to keep him or her safe from predators.

When to call a wildlife rehabilitator:

  1. The fawn is walking out in the open and is crying.
  2. The fawn is bleeding or covered in flies. 

No need to call if:

  1.  The fawn is uninjured. 
  2. The fawn is lying quietly, trying to remain camouflaged while waiting for mom’s return.

If, by some chance, you have already picked the fawn up, return the fawn to the place where you found it. Fawns have been successfully reunited with mom even when taken for 24 hours. Another thing to consider: orphaned fawns have been adopted by other moms who come across them in the wild.

 

Birds

Birds, particularly fledglings, can also be victims of bird-napping. The best thing to do if you find a baby bird is to put them back in the nest. If the nest is too high for you to reach, you can raise up a basket or some kind of container (with drainage holes) near the original nest. Mom and dad will find the nestling again.

When to call a wildlife rehabilitator:

  1. The bird is bleeding or covered in flies.
  2. The baby has been in the mouth of a cat or dog.
  3. The nest cannot be located.
  4. The bird is blind and without feathers.

No need to call if:

  1. The bird is actually a fledgling like the one in the above photo. These guys have open eyes, and a body covered in feathers. When they leave the nest, the parents are still caring for them as they learn to fly and forage. Even if they seem lost, or are having trouble flying, let them be. Mom and dad are nearby.

 

Skunks

Mama skunks do not have great eyesight. They lead their babies (also called kits) in a line, nose-to-tail. If one stumbles behind, mom doesn’t necessarily notice it right away. When she does, she’ll retrace her steps to find the little lost one. If you should see one toddling about, the best thing to do is take something lightweight like a laundry basket, and trap the kit inside. When mom comes back, she’ll be able to flip the laundry basket off the kit, and take them with her.

Please note that skunks are a rabies vector species in the state of Connecticut! Under no circumstances should we should handle a kit or adult without gloves. If the animal bites you, a wildlife rehabber may have the animal destroyed and tested for rabies to ensure your safety. There is no way to test for rabies without killing the animal. Baby animals can carry rabies, and the symptoms are not always as obvious as foaming at the mouth.

When to call a wildlife rehabilitator:

  1. The kit is crying and tries to follow you.
  2. The kit is injured or covered in flies.
  3. The kit has been in the mouth of a cat or dog.
  4. Mom doesn’t come back within 24 hours.

No need to call if:

  1. None of the above applies!

 

Raccoons

If you should come across raccoon kits, mom may be looking for them. Wait overnight (raccoons are nocturnal) to see if she has retrieved them. If you can corral them into an area – such as a box – do so. Mom will be able to get them out. Do not bring them inside your house.

Please note that raccoons are a rabies vector species in the state of Connecticut! Under no circumstances should we should handle a kit or adult without gloves. If the animal bites you, a wildlife rehabber is required to have the animal destroyed and tested for rabies to ensure your safety. There is no way to test for rabies without killing the animal. Baby animals can carry rabies, and the symptoms are not always as obvious as foaming at the mouth.

When to call a wildlife rehabilitator:

  1. The kit is crying and tries to follow you.
  2. The kit is injured or covered in flies.
  3. The kit has been in the mouth of a cat or dog.
  4. Mom doesn’t come back within 24 hours.

No need to call if:

  1. None of the above applies!

 

Opossum

Opossums are North America’s only marsupial! Mom can carry up to thirteen babies attached to teats inside her pouch. When they are weaned and getting too big for the pouch, they ride on her back. Unfortunately, mom isn’t always that great at keeping track of them, so if someone falls off, she might not notice.

Call a wildlife rehabilitator if:

  1. The baby opossum is shorter than 8 inches, not including their tail.
  2. The baby is bleeding or covered in flies.
  3. The baby has been in the mouth of a cat or dog.

No need to call if:

  1. The baby is uninjured and longer than 8 inches from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail.

 

Bats

While bats are not listed as a rabies vector species in Connecticut, please note that they are indeed a rabies vector species. Use gloves! If the bat you discover is a mother with babies attached, you may lift her to a tree trunk and let her climb onto the trunk. If it’s a baby bat without its mother, place into a box and keep in a quiet place.

Call a wildlife rehabilitator if:

  1. It’s a baby bat that is alone.
  2. The bat has been in the mouth of a cat or dog.
  3. The bat is unable to fly.
  4. The bat is obviously injured.

No need to call if:

  1. The bat is able to fly!
  2. The baby bat is with mom!

 

Squirrels

A young squirrel can fall out of the nest. Mom will be looking for them! The best thing to do is put the baby in a basket or some other container where they can snuggle into something soft, and leave them by the area they were found. If their mother is able, she will carry them back to the nest.

When to call a wildlife rehabilitator:

  1. The baby is bleeding or covered in flies.
  2. The baby has been in the mouth of a cat or dog.
  3. The baby is crying nonstop.
  4. Mom hasn’t returned by the next day.

No need to call if:

  1. None of the above applies!

 

Waterfowl

Goslings, ducklings, and other waterfowl are not like songbird nestlings. They hatch from their eggs ready to go! If you find one, or several, look around for a family group. Try to reunite them, first.

When to call a wildlife rehabilitator:

  1. The baby is bleeding or covered in flies.
  2. The baby has been in the mouth of a dog or cat.
  3. The baby cannot walk, stand, or run.
  4. The baby looks fluffy, or “sleepy,” and remains lethargic.

No need to call if:

  1. None of the above applies!

This should cover most of it! Please note that Earthplace is not a rehabilitation center, nor can we transport animals for you. If you have an animal in need, please check the DEEP website for a licensed wildlife rehabilitator!